Small Engine, Big Power | 2015 Volvo S60 T6

February 2015 View more


NMAG0215_FortheRoad_141828_Volvo_S60_800pxThe 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E (yes, that’s the real name; no, there is no Pixar movie tie-in) looks deceptively like last year’s S60, which debuted the long-running model’s new design. But far from a carryover, the 2015 has a lot to boast about.

The big news is the powerplant. While many carmakers change their model names when they change their engines, Volvo stuck with the T6 moniker to describe a completely different under-the-hood arrangement.

Gone is the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. In its place is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Sounds like a downgrade, right? But in a bit of engineering showmanship, Volvo’s engineers bolted on both a turbocharger and a supercharger. Oh, and they replaced the old six-speed automatic transmission with an eight-speed.

The result is an efficient four-cylinder engine that delivers six-cylinder power right off the line and keeps it going as long as you keep the accelerator down. The best part is that all this engineering feels completely seamless. There’s no untoward engine noise, no suspicious jolts or lurches, no loss of power. Even the automatic start-stop system – which saves gas by cutting the engine when you’re at a stop light, then turning it back on when you move your foot off the brake – operates with utter aplomb. In other words, the new S60 T6 performs like a luxury car.

Volvo is riding one of the latest waves in the auto industry here by deploying a small engine in a vehicle that traditionally would have a six-cylinder engine, or, as in past years, an eight-cylinder engine. Automotive engineers are rising to the challenge of increased fuel economy standards. In this case, drivers can tap in to about 300 horsepower while earning 28 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving.

NMAG0215_FortheRoad_141821_Volvo_S60_800pxFor most drivers, all that engineering will be an afterthought once they hit the road, because the S60 T6 is such a pleasure to drive. It will feel familiar to anyone who has driven a Volvo—the same pleasant steering weight and effort, the same well-dampened suspension, the same progressive brake pedal.

Inside the cabin, the S60 T6 is all Volvo, as well. The waterfall center console and oddly anachronistic numbered keypad are still front and center, as are the knobs for radio volume and climate controls. The latter is a blessing when you want to crank the heat without removing your gloves on a cold morning.

Volvo also got two really essential bits of the driver interface just right. The steering wheel is wrapped in smooth leather and feels perfect. The S60’s seats are also standouts. Whether you plan to be in the car for 10 minutes or 10 hours, they are wonderfully comfortable and supportive. And swathed in leather, they look great, too.

NMAG0215_FortheRoad_141819_Volvo_S60_800pxBecause this is a Volvo, rest assured that safety has been baked in. The car earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and has a range of standard and optional features on par with other cars in this class.

The 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E starts at $39,925 without options. Add the Platinum package which includes Harman Kardon stereo, active headlights, rear camera, and more, and the price rises to $43,675. Interestingly, if you want all-wheel-drive, you have to move either up or down the price scale. The S60 T6 R-Design model starts at $44,475 and you will find the larger, turbocharged six-cylinder engine under the hood. Or you can choose the S60 T5 AWD, which starts at $36,175 and features a turbocharged five-cylinder engine good for 250 horsepower.